Founded in 1965, it was in 1988 that the Odebrecht Foundation chose as its mission “Educate for Life, through Work, on the basis of Values and surpassing Limits”, with the focus on educating future generations and promoting youth protagonism. As it celebrates 30 years of this choice in 2018, the institution reinforces its goal of transforming lives through education, as well as the social and productive inclusion of youth.
This group was chosen as the beneficiary based on the scenario in Brazil at that time. In the 1980s, the population between 15 and 29 was growing. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), in the following years, this age group would be the country’s majority. Hence, it was necessary to think about public policies for youth, preparing them to spearhead the development of the country.
“They [youth] want to enter the worlds of work and citizenship with dignity and want to form happy and productive families. It’s a dream that few have had the means to achieve, since our country has not taken into account the huge hardships in rural areas, especially with regard to health and education”, said Norberto Odebrecht, the brain behind the Foundation, to the January/February 2006 issue of the Odebrecht Informa Magazine.
A new scenario
Programs and projects backed by the Foundation reflected this new direction. The Emílio Odebrecht Foundation Awards, as the institution was known back then, was the first to experience this moment. In 1988, it was launched with the purpose of working on youth-related topics, such as sexuality, pregnancy and prevention of diseases.
Youth who participated in the FEO 88 Awards
According to the Institute for Applied Economics Research (IPEA), the school enrollment rate for people aged 15-17 was 59.7% in the 1990s. In Brazil, the lack of quality education was seen as one of the main social problems. To discuss about how to improve this scenario, in 1994 the Foundation launched the “Só a Escola Corrige o Brasil” (Only Schools can Correct Brazil) campaign. In partnership with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the campaign aimed to rally the country around guaranteeing quality public primary education, as well as the stay and success of children and teens at school.
Education remained at the center of the Foundation’s concerns. That’s why, between 1997 and 2000, one of the initiatives supported was the “Pacto do Sítio do Descobrimento pela Educação” (Pact of the Discovery Site for Education), a movement by five cities in Bahia. Coordinated by the Odebrecht Foundation, the mayors of Belmonte, Eunápolis, Porto Seguro, Prado and Santa Cruz Calábria, representatives from civil society, businessmen, the Ayrton Senna Institute and the Ministry of Education formalized the commitment to increase the number of children in the region of Brazil’s discovery at school by the year 2000, when the country celebrated 500 years.
The Pact undertook the commitment to fight for education in the region around the point zero of the discovery of Brazil
Eye on the future
Between 1999 and 2004, three micro-regions in Bahia, Ceará and Pernambuco started to experience social transformation stemming from Alliance with Adolescents for Sustainable Development of the Northeast, an initiative launched by the Odebrecht Foundation with the Ayrton Senna Institute, the Kellogg Foundation and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). The program benefitted youth aged between 14 and 19 and aimed to increase the human, productive and social capital in these communities, offering opportunities for youth to remain in their places of origin, with quality of life.
As such, in 2003, in keeping with the vision of acting towards the cause of social and economic problems, the Foundation created the Development and Integrated Growth Program with Sustainability, whose objective is to transform – socially, economically and environmentally – the living conditions of people in the Southern Bahia Lowlands. The Foundation centered its attention in this region, promoting the rise of a new generation of young leaders, multipliers of knowledge for their families and communities.
Today, the Foundation’s efforts are centered in the Southern Bahia Lowlands, with the focus on youth and their families
“We had the cause: education for life; we had the mission: educating teens on the objective of the cause; but we still lacked the focus. I believe we contributed decisively so that the topic of teenage years was permanently included in the agenda of public opinion and governments. We decided that our focus would be on the Northeast region and it should favor the education of a critical mass of teen leaders, capable of changing the conditions of the communities where they lived”, said Norberto Odebrecht.
In the Southern Bahia Lowlands, the Foundation focuses its efforts on actions that, in alignment with its mission, help transform lives. Arilma Hungria, a 3rd year student at the Presidente Tancredo Neves Rural Family Home (CFR-PTN), one of the institutions supported by PDCIS, is one example of education towards sustainable development. “Education is a fundamental pillar for our growth. When the education process is done well, it enables youth to take charge of their lives. I study in a school that offers resources and knowledge, which help to promote integrated and differentiated education. Today, thanks to the knowledge I acquired, I can envision a better future, in the rural area, for myself and my family”, said the young student.